Is TMAX plus DD-X the best for me?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by jim_coyote, Dec 13, 2016.

  1. I shoot medium format B&W, and scan the negatives on a Canoscan 9000F MK II, using the included software. I have tried Kodak T-Max, Delta, and HP5+. I find 400 speed the most verstatile. I like Kodak T-Max 400 because it has a finer grain, it's sharp, it's easy to load onto the reel, and it dries flat.

    I have developed it in Ilfosol 3 and Ilfotec DD-X. The DD-X is a little more expensive, but the results were a little better too.

    Here's what I like about DDX:
    Liquid, I don't have to mess around with mixing up a powder.
    One-shot, I don't have to store it or keep track of how many times I've used it.
    It seems to last for at least a year

    Here's what I would like in addition to what I have:
    Finer grain (some of my images seem to come out grainy)
    Increased sharpness
    Cheaper (this is less of an issue, but DDX is on the expensive side).

    I pre-rinse, and I dilute the DDX 1+4. I develop for 8 min, agitating for the first 30 sec, and then 5 agitations every 30 sec.

    I imagine there are a lot of variables here:
    Developing technique

    But focusing on technique and developer, could I get finer grain and increased sharpness by changing my technique, eliminating the pre-rinse, or switching to Rodinal?

    Thank you,
  2. I greatly improved and simplified my scanning of black & white when I started using PyroCat developers. The stain action vs the traditional developers reduced light scatter quite a bit. The edge effects of these developers add a crisp separation at high/low contrast points and exhibit great tonal transitions that seem more scanner-friendly, too. Both T grain and traditional emulsions benefited. Photographers' Formulary sells pre-measured kits and it has an extremely stable/long shelf life. Simple baby medicine dosing devices make for simple measuring of the highly concentrated Part A if you don't have pipettes or other lab gear. A couple of friends have started doing this and are very pleased, too.
  3. Sharpness and fine grain are mutually exclusive with a given film. One reduces grain by having more silver solvents in the developer, which makes the grains have softer edges. But this comes at the cost of sharpness. When you go to the sharpness end, you have very crisp and obvious sharp-edged grains.
    Rodinal is completely at the "sharpness" end of the spectrum of developers. Results can be very grainy. But is also is a "speed losing" developer, you not going to be able to use T-MAX 400 at an EI of 400 with it.
    At the other extreme are low-grain developers like Kodak Microdol-X and Ilford Perceptol. They are also "speed losing".
    With plain old D-76, you can experiment easily with solvent levels. Used straight-up, it has a solvent effect. Used 1:1 the solvent effect is minimized, but there's no speed loss. (But note that the Kodak times for 1:1 use require 8 ounces of D-76 and 8 ounces of water per 35mm roll!)
    If you just want cheaper, HC-110 is very cheap if you mix directly from syrup (1+31). This requires using a syringe to measure the syrup. It is also essentially completely eternal in syrup form in the bottle. At Dilution B, you have solvent effect, at the unofficial "Dilution H", you won't have solvent effect.
    I'd suggest that you get and study a copy of "The Film Developing Cookbook."
    Also, note that what you see as "grain" in a scanning workflow may really be grain aliasing. Look that up online...
  4. Are you shooting the TMax at 400 iso or have you figured out your optimal EI (exposure index)? Less exposure can lead to graininess as well. I use DD-X and shoot HP5, Delta100, Acros, and TMax (usually 100, occasionally 400). I almost always rate the film about a half stop or more slower, so 400 box speed becomes 320 and 100 becomes 80. I don't scan, I print in the darkroom, but I really haven't noticed grain in 120. Also, some scanning software can emphasize grain when it's removing what it thinks is dust.

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